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Bad Economics: Existential Comics and the productivity/workweek length myth

1 min read

Part of a series debunking incorrect economics on the internet
Reading time: 45 sec. No TL;DR this time you lazy bum

Twitter user ExistentialComics muses that while worker productivity has gone up in the last 100 or so years, the workweek has not gotten shorter. This is actually in line with John Maynard Keynes himself who thought in the 1930s that we’d be working 15 hour weeks by now given worker productivity advances.

But while we’re not working 15 hour weeks, the average has gone down from 38 to 34 in the last 50 years. And that number was close to 70 in the 19th century.

Some might respond that this hard data doesn’t matter, because a typical workweek is still 40 hours.

That’s still a misconception. As Hal Varian says, people are retiring much younger now than before, which means shorter average workweeks over a lifetime – people simply seem to prefer the leisure in a lump than scattered throughout a career.

So overall, workweeks have clearly gotten shorter by two factors, you just need to make the minimal effort of actually looking at data before forming an opinion.

Originally published on by Matt Ranger